Last week I shared some of the background story for how Rachelle and I decided to start our new co-teaching adventure this year. (You can read about that HERE.) Today I thought I would share “how we got here” this year and a tour of our new room. Here we go!
So, at the beginning of the year we decided that we would like to do a lot of collaborating and bring our students together a lot this year. (I had done this at 2 previous schools and this “Family Time” was always my favorite part of the week!) Knowing that we were going to try to create a cohesive group, we decided to streamline several things. For example, we both use the same class rules. We each taught the students in our rooms the same motions and way of reciting the rules (Whole Brain Teaching style). We even decided to display them in the same place in our rooms (up front near the Smart Boards). Whenever we got our students all together as one big group, we began by reviewing these rules all together. (Below you can see a split screen photo of our rules displays. Mine are on the top and Rachelle’s on the bottom.)
I think that this was a really great way to set the students up for success with both of us as teachers. If you are interested in using this set of rules you can grab them for free HERE.
We began getting our classes together once a week for “Family Time” a few weeks after school started. Each time we got together we rotated back and forth between the two classrooms. In both of our classes, students have a specific square to sit on in our gathering area. We decided very early on to assign spots to the students that were coming to visit as well. This way, as soon as students entered either room they knew exactly where to go. It minimized any confusion that might be created by a large group and helped us get settled quickly. My carpet wasn’t big enough for this. However, we made it work by creating “imaginary rows” beside and behind existing rows.
For the first few weeks, we got together for read alouds (lots of books about friendship!) and music and movement. We made the “family time” a fun time that everyone looked forward to. We took time in the beginning to teach the students the same songs and finger plays. As we alternated classrooms, we took turns “leading” the group. One of us would lead the group while the other person attended to any behavior or student needs. It became everyone’s favorite time of the week very quickly!
By mid-September we began playing sight word games and having competitions during our Family Time. We began by having the 2 classes compete against each other. Soon, we were able to mix things up and compete as girls vs. boys or 5 year olds vs. 6 year olds.
In November we began our first thematic unit together. (This is how we do our science and social studies instruction. More info on this soon!) That’s when Family Time changed from weekly to almost daily. (We started with 3 times per week in November and were up to 5 times per week by December. Things were going so well that in December we invited a 3rd kindergarten class to join us each morning for our thematic instruction.
So, that’s the set up and how we got our slow start this year. Next week I will share more details about how we decided that Family Time wasn’t meeting our needs anymore and that it was time to go “all in”!
However, I can’t end without sharing a few more pictures of our new setup! We are so in love with it right now. Everyday we work to smooth things out a little more and see how we can tweak things to work better… but it is really off to a great start!
This is the view when you walk in our “in door” (what used to be my classroom door).
I think our new set up is so bright and friendly. I feel so happy every time I walk in the door to our new classroom… I hope all of our students do too!
Thanks for reading. Come back next week to see more of our set up and hear about how we are meeting the needs of all our students and having more fun together!
Keep Learning Playful!
Download FREE "Play & Learn" Play Dough mats today! Keep learning playful & developmentally appropriate!